Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 15/2/2016


February is really becoming hellebore time in my garden although unusually I haven’t added to the collection yet this year although I am sure there is still time. Above is a selection of some of those that are looking good this week. Interestingly the colours don’t seem as strong this year with Anna’s Red looking no darker than my long-established dark pink hellebore and the yellows seem very pale.


I need to relocate some of the hellebores so the flowers are easier to see and I don’t have to step into border to take photos.


I do like the yellows so I might see about adding to these instead of more purple and pinks.


Crocus tommasinianus are beginning to spread under the Field Maple which is very satisfying.  Sadly this year with the seemingly endless overcast days it is rare that the flowers are actually open so I was lucky to catch these crocus open the other day.

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I’m also really pleased to find some hepaticas flowering this year.  I planted two groups last year in opposite sides of the garden to try to work out what was the right environment for them.  It seems that the more shady damper area is preferred to the dry shade area so I will relocate the hepaticas from the less desirable spot.


The snowdrops are also slowly but surely spreading around the garden and are beginning to form a white haze on the back slope.


I have a growing number of named varieties in the garden, acquiring a few more each year.  I think this is one I got some years ago but I have lost the label so I have no idea what it is but the flowers seem larger than Galanthus nivalis, in particular the outer petals are longer.  I will have to see if I can find a record on this blog or in my label box of what it might be.


The last of my favourites this week is this unknown camellia which although quite a small shrub is smothered in bloom, luckily we have not had many frosts so the flowers haven’t gone brown.

Also flowering in the garden are pulmonaria, cyclamen, witch hazel, and slowly but surely the various narcissus.  This is Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’.IMG_4106For more February blooms from around the world visit Carol at May Dream Gardens and check out the links.


My Garden This Weekend – 22/2/15


Any time in the garden is precious at this time of year and if the sun shines albeit weakly it is even more special. Yesterday afternoon was such a time with a low sun appearing fleetingly behind the scudding clouds. Today, by contrast, was a day to watch and look as the rain lashed against the windows and the few remaining dead leaves galloped across the patio.


It is also a time of year that rewards you for looking.  If you take time and look carefully you can see buds forming on the branches and the elegant detail of the bulb flowers such as the veining on these unknown crocus flowers.

But I have to be honest to say that whilst I do take time looking  I am so pleased to be able to spend some time outside that I tend to have my head down working hard.  I have spent the week hoping for gardening time, devising a list of things I would like to achieve, pondering planting ideas and generally dreaming of getting my hands into the soil which makes me feel grounded (no pun intended) and rooted in my space.


The objective this weekend was to plant out the remaining two peonies which had been potted up temporarily since their arrival and also to plant out the new hellebores instead of them languishing on the patio with the risk of being frozen in their pots.  The focus of my attention was the corner of the former Bog Garden nearest the workshop – which I have decided to remain the Rowan Border because there is a Rowan (Sorbus vilmorinii) in it!  I have struggled with a focus for this area ever since it was created.  The Rowan tree has almost been an obstacle ever since I planted it or no obvious reason at all.  But having read in several places recently about lifting the canopy of shrubs and trees to provide planting spaces under I realised that I was letting the tree canopy block my ideas. Strange I know and I wonder if it has something to do with the garden sloping upwards as I often seem to be looking at the bottom or top of plants rather than the view you would have in a flat garden.  The Peony ‘Bowls of Beauty’ is to be a key plant in the border although I appreciate it might not flower this year and has been planted so it will eventually hide the base of the tree.  The colours of the flowers should reflect and continue the blossom of the Prunus kojo-no-mai.  I am trying to build up layers of planting using the idea of creating triangles with the Sorbus and Prunus as two of the high points of triangles – we will see if it works.


I haven’t thought of planting borders with a particular colour palette before, focussing more on a season or a style so this is a new approach for me and hopefully will make more sense. I don’t want a restricted plant palette as I am far too eclectic in my taste nor, as I have discovered, will a particular style i.e. exotic, work for me. So the peony and prunus are being supplemented with hellebores, acquilegia, primroses and violas all in soft pastel colours but hopefully with some stronger highlights.  The trouble is I can’t remember what colour the acquilegia flowers are so I will have to do some editing as they appear.  I also know there is an orange Lathyrus and a yellow day lily in the border some where and I suspect these will have to be relocated.  If so they will go to the Big Border which has citrus colours in it as well as purples and blues.  I have also tried to think about textures and foliage as these will be there for longer than the flowers.  It’s a start and will be added to as the plants develop and it becomes obvious what needs to be done.  All has been top-dressed with some green waste from the council and although it looks a bit bare above, from the bench you get the first view which is really enjoyable on an early Spring day as you hug a cup of tea.


Whilst I was pleased with the planting I managed yesterday I was also really chuffed with the purchase of the Primula above.  It cost me £4 for a 1 litre pot from Waitrose but I knew from looking at the shades of the flowers that there was more than one plant in the pot and yes when I turned it out there were 3 good size plants.  These have been planted in the border I was working on last week so they can be enjoyed from the gravel steps.  The plan is to really plant up along the steps, something I have neglected to do until now.  I want to create a really flowery effect so will be adding some of the more robust alpines I have languishing in pots and hope they seize the challenge and start to soften the hard landscaping.


Having done so well yesterday it would have been greedy to expect a second gardening day and Mother Nature has certainly shown who is in charge today.  I did manage to sow a couple of packets of annuals though which are now sitting on a windowsill with the hope of getting some good strong plants for the summer.

Next weekend I have my local HPS meeting and a birthday nursery visit but until then I will content myself with revisiting my all time favourite gardening book – The Layered Garden and pondering.



My garden this weekend – 2nd March 2014


This has been a weekend of extremes of weather.  Today, my birthday, has been a non-event in the garden due to the drizzle and cold wind but this is fine as I wore myself out yesterday in the garden taking advantage of the sunshine.

I love this time of year there is so much promise and every time I am in the garden I do much peering to see what bulbs and perennials are appearing.  To be honest it was a relief to have a nice day to garden as my mental list of plants to move and plans for borders had got to such a length that I was in danger of remembering where the great plant move was to start.  Of course, it goes without saying that I could write it all down in a notebook but I kept telling myself it would be fine, I would remember.


First up was the left hand front corner of the garden (above) which I can see from the living room windows.  It has been a sad area ever since we have lived here.  Some weeks ago I moved a Spirea Bridal Wreath which was planted right up against the top of the wall.  As you can see moving back some 4ft has opened up this area and I prefer it but what to plant?  I knew I wanted some perennials in here but I wanted them to be something that didn’t need a lot maintenance as to access this corner means walking on the border.  I bought a Euphorbia pasteurii ‘Phrampton  Patty’ last month at my local HPS group and this was earmarked for the corner.


As you can see it was quickly followed by some additional hellebores, also bought from my local HPS group meeting. To add a bit of summer colour I divided up a clump of Geranium phaeum and scattered it amongst the hellebores.  My thinking is that the purple markings on the leaves will pick up on the hellebore flowers in a year or so when the clumps bulk up and there will be nice deep purple flowers in the summer when the hellebores are resting.  I also relocated a Melianthus major to the border where hopefully it will provide some evergreen interest for most of the year.  As this is a view I have from the house during the grey days of winter and spring I want to add some more spring interest here so I think maybe some crocus, Snow Bunting, or possibily snowdrops but I seem to have quite a few of those now so a change might be good.


I am starting to work along this fence line tidying up and sorting out – it’s an area that’s been neglected for some years.  I was thrilled to discover the Mahonia had started to re-shoot.  I had taken a gamble last April and lopped the shrub to within 10cm of the ground; at the time it had a single stem heading upwards and I wanted a more shrubby plant.  It was a bit of a leap of faith but all my research told me that this was what was needed and it turned out to be correct.


I also moved some an old cornus into the Camellia border since its previous location was too dry, even with all the rain we have had, and it has sulked for years.  Hopefully it will be happier in the damper environment.  Also relocated were some Siberian irises.  I have some candelabra primulas and meconopsis poppy seedlings I want to plant here although I think I may be optimistic about the space available.

Having wrecked my back again with all the lifting and digging I spent more time picking up sticks and twigs which had blown down in the recent high winds.  A tedious task but it does mean you notice things in the borders and I was pleased to see the Polyanthus Stella Champagne that I reviewed from Plant Me Now back in August were flowering, such a pretty pink (see top photo).


Finally, and in my usual ambitious and over optimistic way, I decided to start on the fence staining that needs to be done.  Long term readers will know that I have neglected fence care since I have lived here, ten years, and last year I spent many evenings staining the back fence.  It was a lovely dark brown but has already faded so it shows how dry the fence was gobbling up two coats of stain.  My aim this year is to do all the fences at least twice; I said I was ambitious. I do like the dark stain as it really shows the plants up and I feel it brings the boundaries in making the garden feel more enclosed in a strange way.

Needless to say today I ache all over but I am thrilled with how much I achieved especially as the weather is so rubbish today. I shall have to console myself with my new greenhouse shelves that my sons bought me!

A February outing to RHS Wisley


Yesterday, the gods smiled, the sun shone and I finally got to spend a day at RHS Wisley Garden.  I have wanted to visit properly for a while but it’s around a 3 hour drive each way and the journey skirts the edge of London.  As I am rapidly becoming a country hillbilly the thought of all that traffic has been too much for me and I have repeatedly dismissed the idea of a visit.  However, this year I decided that I needed to get over it and go.  Luckily a conversation with my friend Victoria provided the answer.  Victoria moved from London some 18 months ago and missed her regular visits to Wisley.  She lives just under halfway between me and the garden so yesterday I got up early drove to hers and then she drive the rest of the way.


I’m not sure why I was so keen to visit this year but I particularly wanted to see the Alpine House and rock garden and spring is a good time due to all the spring bulbs.  I was also interested to see the new Henry Moore statue, the King and Queen, that is temporarily residing at the top of the lily pool by the entrance. I have seen quite a few photos of the statue on twitter from the back with the pool in the background so I was pleased to see the statue from the front.  I think it is rather wonderful and reminds me of medieval images almost Spanish in its appearance.


The weather was amazing and having left early leaving behind rain we were somewhat overdressed but never mind it was a nice problem to have. I was amazed at how busy the garden was on a Monday morning but I suppose everyone is keen to get out into the sunshine and there were lots of small children with their mothers, nannies and grandparents.


First up was the Alpine House and all the dinky pots of bulbs.  I was interested to see how they were presented in the sand beds.  How wonderful to have the luxury of an alpine house for displaying those pots that are in flower.  The colours were a wonderful boost for the soul after the drabness we have had for months. It is also interesting to see the variety of alpines in flower at the moment – if you relied on the media you would think the only things in flower were snowdrops and crocus.


Seeing these plants and the rock garden and crevice gardens outside confirmed my feeling that my real interest in alpines is in the bulbs rather than cushion plants.


Neither of us were particularly taken by the rock garden and crevice beds although we realise that this isn’t quite the best time of year but it was all so grey.  However, we were very taken with the small crevice garden made of terracotta tiles.  I think it’s the colour which attracts me but it’s certainly something to consider in the future.

2014_02250086Being February there obviously wasn’t a lot of colour in the main gardens aside from the bulbs although there were one or two camellias starting to flower and this wonderful Prunus.  We did spend quite a bit of time looking at exotic appearing plants for my new whim to have hardy exotics in the garden.  I have many photos of Agaves, Aloes, ferns and other foliage plants to inspire me.  Talking with Victoria helped me crystallise my feelings about my garden and recognise that my interest is really in interesting foliage and we talked at length about other people’s perceptions and how hard it could be to create the garden you want rather than being influenced by others. I think over the recent period I have started to become more focussed and less influenced by the media and others views and it is a nice feeling. It amused me that when seeing some shrubs underplanted with Pulmonaria we both quickly agreed that we didn’t like this plant but had both planted it in our early gardening days as the media and other gardeners told us how wonderful it was.


We discussed how shrubs planted for winter interest worked and how really you needed a number for the effect and you needed to take into account the light in the garden.  We saw the first brimstone butterfly of the year which was surprisingly thrilling for me.  As Victoria knows the garden so well she knew exactly what bits would look good, which areas would help  inspire me and what we should avoid as it would be full of small children!


We were particularly taken with this planting of crocus amongst grasses, I suspect it may be replicated in both our gardens.

Needless to say we ended up  in the Plant Centre and left with two trolleys of goodies between us.

I think if we can find a day or two that we can both do later in the year we will be going back as we had such a great day. I would really like to see the new rose garden as I think the combination of the roses and perennials will be wonderful.

My Garden This Weekend – 23rd February 2014


There isn’t much to report from the garden this weekend mainly as I spent the only dry sunny day at my garden club and sadly Sunday was a blustery and damp day.  I have spent some time outside today, well enough to take these photographs which proved challenging due to the wind.  Looking around the garden there are increased signs of the change of seasons we are all waiting for.


The first daffodils are flowering.  I don’t know what variety they are as they came with the house but these ones always flower a good few weeks before others.  There was an interesting discussion at the HPS meeting about the flowering of daffodils and how despite the mild weather they don’t seem to have flowered much earlier. The group speculated that they needed a cold snap to get them going which makes sense I suppose although if so and we continue to have mild weather then that logic would say none of the daffodils would flower, which makes no sense!!


I did buy a few more hellebores at the HPS meeting.  I think I said last week that I wanted to add to my collection and I had been thinking of visiting Ashwoods again but was struggling to find the time to get there. All the hellebores I have are from Ashwoods so it is nice to add to the collection from a different source.  I am rather pleased with the white one above bought from another club member, such a pure colour.  I also bought two good size seedlings from the charity table.  They don’t have such a clear colour but I think the addition of some pinks will be nice.  As an additional plus the three hellebores, all a good size, cost me only £7!



Aside from taking some photographs today I sowed more seeds, this time some woodland perennials that had been collected in Japan.  I have bought seeds from a couple of plant collectors this year so am interested to see how they do.


Hopefully next weekend I will get more of a chance to do some of the jobs I want to get on with.  In the meantime I get to enjoy the view above from my living room window although I do keep thinking that I must divide the clumps up when the snowdrops finish flowering.


A good year for Crocus


Whilst this Winter and early Spring have been unprecedentedly cold the crocuses do seem to have benefited.  I don’t remember a year when they have looked so good. 

I have to admit that I have a half-hearted relationship with crocus.  They look lovely in parkland in large drifts under deciduous trees but I hate them when they are used in municipal planting schemes as they look so unnatural.  Hardly suprising when they are not being planted in anything resembling their natural habitat!  Over the last few years I have acquired a few crocuses mainly as part of a deal when buying other bulbs.  I am pleased though as I have planted them under deciduous trees and in the case above in a location where the ground really bakes in the summer (if we have any heat) so to mirror the crocus’s natural habitat of the Mediterranean. 

I was pondering why they have looked so good for so long this year. We didn’t have a particularly hot summer last year so it can’t be that.  I wonder instead whether, although we have had a lot of snow and frosts, we haven’t had a lot of rain and maybe in the past this has flattened the crocuses just as they were reaching their best.  Whatever it is this year is definitely a good year for crocuses.